what exactly is taste? Just like vibration or light, what does a thing have or lack to determine taste and how do we process it?


what exactly is taste? Just like vibration or light, what does a thing have or lack to determine taste and how do we process it?

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Our bodies are made up of cells. Some cells communicate to other cells using chemicals and electricity. These are called neurons.

Your eye contains neurons that respond to being hit by light. Some of these eye neurons respond to brightness and others respond to color. This information is relayed from your eye neurons to your brain.

You have neurons that do something similar on your tongue. These neurons get excited when they come into contact with tastes that are either salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or savory. Like your eye neurons, your tongue neurons will then relay this information to your brain when they are triggered by these flavors.

Vision is more or less just four sensors. One senses how similar to blue light a frequency is, one senses how similar to green, one to red, and the last just detects any of them.

Taste is similar, in a way. You have sensors for all sorts of chemicals, and those sensors will detect anything else that happens to be the right shape to interact with them. Really, what you’re sensing is just “how well does this molecule interact with my smell receptors”.

Chemical receptors.

The classic analogy is the “lock and key” image. The key is a chemical from your food, and the lock is a chemical receptor on your taste buds. When the flavor chemical finds the right “lock”, it connects and turns a “switch”; a small nerve impulse goes to the brain to indicate which receptor was activated.

We have a lot of different types of receptors in our taste buds, like sweet or salty, and the combination they’re activated in tells the brain what you’re tasting. You have similar receptors in your nose for scent, and the brain uses those to help identify whatever you put in your mouth.

It’s a biochemical reaction that leads to a neural feedback.
The taste buds in a particular section on your tongue react to the chemical in the food you eat (ex citric acid in a sour candy) and one activated, those taste buds provided a feedback to your brain. Instinctively, this causes your face muscles to contort as a reaction.

Different chemicals react differently to different parts of your tongue and hence, produce a different taste. Sucrose/glucose/fructose are all sugars and since biologically your body loves simple sugars, they taste pleasant and the neural pathways in your brain makes them something we crave. Sour and bitter (most acids and alcohols) are generally foods that are poisonous and are to be avoided in nature so our body’s reaction is to different.

It’s the detection of chemicals. Smell works the same way. Basically, certain shapes of molecules will attach to certain receptors on your tastebuds (or in your nose) and that triggers a nerve that tells your brain which receptor went off, and your brain interprets that as a taste.

It’s not perfect, though. Certain lead compounds can taste sweet, which is why children sometimes eat lead paint chips, they taste it, and it’s sweet, so they eat more. This is because the lead compound has a similar shape to that of sugars that would normally trigger those receptors. Artificial sweeteners work the same way, just without the lead.